The Utter Futility of Tough Love

I used to believe in tough love. Not toward other people particularly, but certainly toward myself.

For years, for almost my entire life, I carried around with me the attitude that if I could only shame myself enough, push myself enough, cajole myself enough, bully myself enough, beat myself black and blue enough… that someday I would emerge from my cocoon of self-loathing, and flutter away on wings of self-love.

I thought I could defeat hate with more hate. I don’t believe that shit any more.

What I believe instead is that the behaviour that I labelled as “tough love” was, at the end of the day, just abuse. I might have given it a prettier name, but it amounted to the same thing in the end. And this behaviour certainly didn’t come from a place of love, but of fear.

The other thing I realised as I dug further into this, is that the kind of mad and useless thing I was practicing on myself is rampant in the way we deal with each other.

We are petrified of being too nice, too caring, too compassionate, too generous, for fear that we will raise a generation of sissies who can’t stand up for themselves. Fuck off. Do you think a Boris Johnson or a Donald Trump are created because people in their early lives were too nice, caring, compassionate, or generous? I don’t.

I don’t envision a world where we helicopter parent, or where put a foam cushion over all the sharp edges, or where we have to ask for consent before we smile at somebody. But I do envision a world where we recognise the difference between genuine tough love – giving constructive, realistic and sometimes harsh advice – and just being an asshole.

And that better world starts with the way you treat yourself.

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